Seattle Mayor: It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage to $15 Per Hour

Posted: May 02, 2014 12:15 PM

Not only did Seattle Democratic Mayor Ed Murray campaign on a platform to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour when he was running for office, but he’s already crafted and put into motion a plan to do just that. Is this happening? Incredibly, though, his proposal is coming under fire (not by conservatives, mind you, according to the New York Times, but by elected socialists). Why? Because it doesn’t go far enough.

Yes, you read that correctly (via Erika Johnsen):

Mayor Ed Murray presented on Thursday what he described as an imperfect but workable plan to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage and one of the highest anywhere in the nation, through a series of complex and phased-in stages. Just as crucially, he said, the plan has broad political support, with a coalition of labor and business groups ready to push hard for it at the City Council, starting with the first hearings next week.

But the plan, which in many other cities might be seen as a liberal Democratic agenda at the frontier of social and economic engineering, was immediately attacked not from the mayor’s right, but from his left.

Kshama Sawant, a Socialist Alternative Party member who was elected to the Seattle City Council last year on a single-minded drive to raise wages, said the plan had been “watered down” by business interests on the mayor’s 24-member committee on income inequality, of which she was also a member. In a packed news conference at City Hall right after Mr. Murray’s, she called on her supporters to continue their effort to gather signatures for a possible ballot initiative on wages this fall. The campaign might also put pressure on the Council to make the mayor’s plan better for workers, she suggested. “Every year of a phase-in means yet another year in poverty for a worker,” Ms. Sawant said. “Our work is far from done.”

Mr. Murray, a Democrat and former state senator, formed his special committee on income inequality this year — headed by a labor union leader and a business executive — and gave them three months to find common ground. While running for mayor last fall, he, like Ms. Sawant, pledged to support a $15 minimum wage.

Put broadly, 21 out of 24 lawmakers are backing the proposal, which if passed would affect different employers differently. For example, the Times reports that companies in the area exceeding 500 employees (not just in Seattle, but nationwide) would be fast-tracked to hit the $15/hour mark by 2017; smaller companies would be given more leeway, eventually hitting that wage threshold by 2021. Either way, however, the goal is ostensibly the same:

“We are going to decrease the poverty rate in the city by raising the minimum wage. We are going to improve lives of workers who can barely afford to live in the city,” Mr. Murray said. “At the same time we’re going to do it in a way that doesn’t harm those folks who are the great job creators of the city — the entrepreneurs, the homegrown businesses.”

Actually, as we’ve said repeatedly, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office tells us that raising the federal minimum wage to only $10.10 per hour could kill up to a million American jobs. So what do you think would happen if the city of Seattle raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour?

I suspect there will be massive layoffs, and less opportunity afforded to those who deserve and need it most.